LAKE PLACID - Lake Placid saved the Winter Olympics, and restored the pride of the United States of America. That's the claim of a new book titled "A Long Shot to Glory" that recently hit the market.
Author Michael Burgess told the Lake Placid News that he was inspired to write the book both by his love for Lake Placid and his fascination with the story behind the 1980 Winter Games being held in this village. According to Burgess, he attended the 1980 games, vacationed in Lake Placid for 36 summers and spent a year and a half researching and writing about the 1980 Winter Games.
"I love Lake Placid, and I went to those Games. When I began to hear more about the story, it seemed such an incredible story as to how they got the games," he said in a phone interview with the News. "I think the locals knew the story, but the general public wasn't aware as to just what an effort it took to get the games here."
According to Burgess, few people realize that the Miracle on Ice was preceded by another miracle in Lake Placid: getting the games to town and then pulling them off despite environmental, financial and administrative obstacles.
"I wondered if the whole story of the 1980 Winter Olympics had already been told," Burgess wrote in the book's acknowledgements section. "There have been movies about the 'Miracle on Ice' and a video production of Lake Placid's Olympic history. I realized, though, that while many who lived in Lake Placid or worked at the games may have known the events leading up to the games, there were many details that a movie could not report and so many interesting stories to these games that needed to be told.
"Another reason (for writing the book) is that I don't think people realize that Lake Placid really played a major role in keeping the Winter Games going and making them stronger," Burgess said.
He says the book provides new information about how the Lake Placid games were threatened several times by environmental and financial problems.
In the book, Burgess says the Miracle on Ice - the defeat of the Soviet Union's hockey team by an upstart group of Americans - may have never happened.
"What happened on the hockey ice was improbable enough, but the Lake Placid Winter Games were a long shot, if not a miracle too. Winning the games had been an unlikely decades-long quest for this small town to overcome the barriers of exploding finances, environmental concerns and world politics. Few remember that the 1980 games were never supposed to take place in Lake Placid," it reads on the book's back cover.
"Most people remember the 'Miracle on Ice' but they may not remember that Denver got the games in 1976 and then withdrew after voters rejected a bond issue to pay for the games," it reads in a press release for the book. "If Denver had won the Olympics, Lake Placid would not have been selected in 1980 and then the games became too big for a small town. Also, most people don't remember that when all the other bidders pulled out for 1980, the International Olympic Committee had a choice of either Lake Placid or canceling the games.
"(The book) provides the insights of top state officials at the time who said that Gov. Hugh Carey became so concerned about the management of the games that he insisted that the Lake Placid Olympic Organizing Committee hire Peter Spurney as general manager in order to pull the games together in the fall of 1978, just 16 months before the games began."
So far, Burgess said the book has had favorable reviews.
"People who have read it have been very complimentary," he said. "The general reaction is: 'Hey, we never knew.' They just did not realize all the issues going on. I really wanted people to know the whole story."
Burgess added that he is curious as to the local reaction over one of the book's chapters.
"I am going to be wondering about the local reaction about the chapter about how much bickering there was in the community regarding the Olympics coming here," he told the News.
"It would not be too much of a stretch to say that the Lake Placid Games, which brought the 'Miracle on Ice,' saved the Winter Olympics in 1980 and greatly enhanced them for the future," the book's introduction reads. And Burgess echoed that sentiment in his interview with the News.
"I think the general reaction is that people are still in awe that Lake Plaid had the Olympics. Now they are held in bigger cities, and not that long ago it was held in a small city, without all the hoopla as there is now. Now I think (the Olympics) is more for television," he said. "I think a good comparison today is the Original Six in professional hockey and how big the NHL has become. It was more nostalgic back then."
Michael Burgess, the former director of the New York State Office for the Aging, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.